Intelligent and (dare one say?) deeply psychologized fiction.
Shpancer never names the title character—he’s simply “the psychologist”—and this character invests much of his energy in trying to maintain his own emotional equilibrium. In one of his lives he deals with needy patients at the Center for Anxiety Disorders and quickly begins to focus on a specific appointment (not until later in the novel does this character assume a name, Tiffany Johnson). She’s a stripper and pole-dancer, exploited by her boss and separated from her daughter by a manipulative spouse. In yet another life the psychologist teaches Introduction to the Principles of Therapy, an evening course at a local college, so we get to witness his explanation of psychological cases both from a general, theoretical position and from the perspective of individual cases he’s working on. And in a heartbreaking combination of the personal and professional, the psychologist is involved with Dr. Nina Michaels, a married woman and also a psychologist, whom he turns to for emotional connection as well as for advice in hard cases. An added complication is that Nina has a daughter by the psychologist, his only child though one he can’t acknowledge. As Tiffany’s case gets more layered and complex—she eventually reveals her father has sexually molested her—the psychologist delves ever more deeply into her memory and desires. The class he teaches has some iconic students—an evangelical Christian who feels God, rather than Psychology, is all we need; a skeptical and non-intellectual student; and a sensitive young woman who takes many of the lessons almost too closely to heart and begins to question the reasons behind her upcoming marriage. Throughout all these narrative episodes, Shpancer strikes a beautiful balance between the analytical and the personal, the tormented subjectivity of the patient and the arduous objectivity of the psychologist.
An intense and engrossing read.